Beyond Good & Evil Review
genre: Action Adventure
PIII 750, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 19, 03
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I must admit I didn't know a lot about Beyond Good & Evil before putting the shiny disc into the CD tray. Sure, I've heard bits and pieces about it here and there, read the odd press release or two, but I was essentially oblivious as to what I could expect from it. I knew only a few facts, for example, I knew that BG&E is the latest game from the creator of the Rayman series, Michael Ancel. The title has been in development for three years and as far as I knew it was mostly geared towards console gamers.
Being the biased PC gamer that I am, I must admit I assumed the worst, expecting to get a watered-down PG-13 platformer with clunky controls and precious little depth. Boy, was I ever glad to find out I had this one all wrong ... for the most part anyway.
There's something fishy going on here.
Beware of my burning stick thingy!
In short, BG&E is an action-adventure/platformer hybrid, ironically enough without any platform jumping. The main character jumps automatically when near a reachable crate, etc. If I had to describe BG&E in a single sentence I'd say that, gameplay wise, it's a cross between Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Rayman. Still, it would be rather unfair to label the game like that, as it actually has a lot more to offer than you would initially assume.
BG&E's cartoonish art design definitely evokes that classic Rayman spirit, but at the same time, it mixes in many elements from other famous fantasy worlds like the Matrix Trilogy (an unlikely mix), Disney cartoons, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and other anime-style video games. What this means is that at first glance the game will seem rather juvenile - clean and colorful. Your first actual contact with it is sure to be rather disheartening; I know that it was for me. However, if there's one thing that similar Japanese games teach us is that one should never dismiss titles purely on the basis of simplicity. Often times, such prejudices hold true, but sometimes, just sometimes, there is greatness to be found in the simplest of things. In order to truly experience a game like Beyond Good & Evil, you need to look beneath the surface, free your mind, and let the imagination carry you on gossamer wings. If you can do that, you'll have a really enjoyable time with it. (Gossamer Wings? Ok, who are you, and what have you done with Uros' testicles? - Six) Be forewarned, however, that if you are by any chance one of those gamers who simply need a sense of realism and grittiness in their games, know that this one is probably not for you. On the other hand, that doesn't mean that BG&E is lacking any kind of plot or characterization. Playing BG&E is like playing a part in a very good animated movie. It's a feel-good game that successfully appeals to gamers across the board.
The vast, peaceful planet of Hyllis has fallen under siege by a relentless alien race. After a desperate struggle to defend her island, a Hyllian named Jade collapses in exhaustion - only to be tormented by disturbing visions. Despite public assurances that the planet has been secured, Jade begins to suspect that there's more to these invasions than the government has disclosed. When a rebel organization reinforces her doubts, Jade begins a harrowing journey to get to the core of the conspiracy. Armed with her camera, aikido staff, and resolute investigative skills, Jade sets out to expose the truth and to liberate the minds of her deceived people.
Beneath its cartoonish exterior there is a lot of decent storytelling to be found in Beyond Good & Evil. All of the characters seem to fit rather well into the plotline, and the game world is imaginative and elaborate enough to successfully draw the players in. That's the key thing really; the designers have managed to make a consistent fantasy universe that creates an illusion of a living and breathing virtual world. There is always just the right doze of humor and key, well directed cut-scenes to ensure that BG&E has a great cinematic feel to it. This excellent cinematic experience is made complete by truly awesome voice acting that is on a par with any Disney animated movie out there. Add to that the fantastic musical score and some very effective use of pixel shaders to bring important parts of the scene in and out of focus, and you get a well directed video game with plenty of movie-like qualities. On top of that, players who appreciate anime and comic style graphics will be surprised at how good the game can look at times, especially the character models.
The gameplay mechanics (combat in particular) are basic to say the least, but that certainly doesn't imply that the game design is flawed in any way. Quite the contrary really; although the puzzles and combat are never really frustrating they're meticulously designed and used in such a way that they never take away from the game's fluidity. Much the same as with the visuals, Michael Ancel has managed to create a game that should appeal to both younger and adult gamers alike. Players will keep moving from one location to another, each with its own set of puzzles and important clues. There are two main aspects of the game that provide enough variety and free-flowing gameplay to keep things interesting. First off, BG&E successfully mixes several different gameplay styles. Some parts of the game will be action-oriented and others more puzzle based. But there'll also be sections where you'll have to use stealth or even race in your hovercraft to get by. Next to that, the designers have added a number of locations that will take a bit of exploration and effort to find or break into. This ensures the game doesn't seem too linear or railed, even if that is the case. Good game design and great cinematic effects will ensure that those of you with a knack for this type of fantasy world and game art will spend hours on BG&E.